Brian Ward

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Brian Ward
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1997McPherson (DC/ST)
1999–2000Glendale CC (DC/DB)
2001–2004Wabash (AHC/DB/ST)
2005Missouri Southern (AHC/Co-DC/ST)
2006Tulsa Union (OK) HS (AHC/DC)
2010North Dakota State (DB)
2011Drake (DC/LB)
2012–2014Western Illinois (DC/LB)
2015Bowling Green (DC/LB/interim HC)
2016–2019Syracuse (DC)
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year(2002)

CollegeFanz National Coach of the Year(2009) Footballscoop Coach of the Year Finalist-Linebackers(2015)

Broyles Award Nominee(2017)

Brian Ward is an American football coach. He was most recently the defensive coordinator at Syracuse University, a position he held from January 2016 to November 2019. Ward served as the head football coach at McPherson College from 2007 to 2009 and as the interim head football coach at Bowling Green State University for one game in 2015, compiling a career college football record of 17–15. His awards include 2002 AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year, 2009 CollegeFanz NAIA National Coach of the Year, 2015 Footballscoop Coach of the Year Finalist-Linebackers, and in 2017 was a Broyles Award nominee.

Coaching career[edit]

Ward was the head football coach at McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas. He held that position for three seasons, from 2007 until 2009. His coaching record at McPherson was 17–14.[1]

Ward was named the 2009 College Fanz National Coach of the Year after taking his team to the NAIA national playoffs for the first time in the history of the program.[2]

In 2010 Ward left for North Dakota State University and Head Coach Craig Bohl to coach the Defensive Backs where he helped lead the Bison from a 3-8 record in 2009, to a National Quarterfinal appearance in 2010. In 2011, Ward became the Defensive Coordinator at Drake University reuniting him with former boss Chris Creighton. He led the defense to a #7 national ranking in Total Defense and #2 rank nationally in rushing defense in FCS, and a 2011 Pioneer League Championship. From 2012-2014 he led the defense at Western Illinois University under Bob Nielsen. Highlights from during his time as defensive coordinator at WIU include finishing #6 Nationally in Total Defense, #7 in Passing Defense, and #4 in Yards per Play in FCS in 2013.

In 2014 in a 37-3 against Wisconsin, Wards defense held Wisconsin to 7 points in the 1st half, and held Heisman Trophy Runner-up Melvin Gordon to 38 yards rushing on 18 attempts. It would be Gordons lowest rushing total in his college career. In February 2015 Head Football coach Dino Babers of Bowling Green State University hired Ward to be the Defensive Coordinator. In 2015, BGSU would finish the season 10-4 and in the process beat 2 Big Ten Teams on the road (Maryland, Purdue), win the MAC East Championship, and ultimately win the MAC championship outright by besting Northern Illinois 35-14 in the MAC Championship game. Following the game, Babers would depart for Syracuse and Ward would end up joining him after serving as the Interim Head Coach in a loss to Georgia Southern in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, AL.

In 2016, Ward followed Dino Babers to Syracuse to serve as his safeties coach and Defensive Coordinator. The Orange finished their first season winning one more game than the year before, and beat the eventual ACC Atlantic Champions #13 Virginia Tech 30-17 in the 7th week of the season. They also beat Arch-Rival Boston College on the road 27-20.

In 2017 the Orange Defense was ranked as high as #1 in the NCAA in 3rd Down Defense going into week 10, and held #2 Clemson to a 2 year low (17 offensive points) in a week 7 win. Going into the week #10 game against Wake Forest, the Orange defense was the most improved defense in Power 5 football in Total, Scoring, Red Zone, Yards per Play, and 3rd down defense. For this, Ward was selected as a nominee for the 2017 Frank Broyles award which goes to the Nations Top Division One Assistant. was tainted by the final 3 games in home losses against Wake Forest and Boston College, along with a road loss at Louisville.

In 2018, the Orange exceeded expectations by having their most successful year since 1998. The Orange finished the year ranked #14 in the AP Poll, and beat West Virginia in the Camping World Bowl 34-18. It was the first time in 21 years that the Orange had won 10 games in a season. Additionally, Wards defense turned out to be one of the best defenses in the NCAA. His defense finished the regular season ranked 1st in the NCAA in Turnovers forced (32), 3rd in tackles for loss, 5th in Sacks (43), 5th in Interceptions (20), 7th in 3rd Down Defense, 11th in Total Defense Efficiency, and 15th in Red Zone Defense. The Orange defense also set a school-record for sacks in a season. Further, Wards defense also finished the season with the longest streak in college football with a turnover forced (13 games).


Ward and his wife Amy are advocates and chairpersons for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Their daughter Ellie was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2010. Ward is also a former professional boxer with a career record of 1-0, which followed an extensive Amateur career. Ward married his wife Amy (Brandseth) in 1995, and they have 3 children (Travis, Ellie, Erin).


  1. ^ "McPherson College Football Media Guide 2010" (PDF). McPherson College Athletics. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
  2. ^ Sell, Steve (February 23, 2010). "Ward resigns as McPherson College football coach". McPherson Sentinel. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved November 11, 2010.

External links[edit]